Science: Not a Crisis in Journalism but an Opportunity

In the lead editorial at Science last week, Harvard University's Cristine Russell discusses the many emerging possibilities in science journalism. It's a mistake to frame current events as a "crisis," correctly explains Russell, but rather to look at trends as an opportunity to diversify, innovate, and experiment with new models and formats, expanding the network of science journalists into a truly global community, retraining journalists to produce content for new platforms and to cover related dimensions of policy and ethics, while broadening and diversifying audiences.

For journalists from Boston to Beijing, the rapidly changing world of communication technology also offers myriad multimedia options for crossing borders by accessing the latest science, interviewing experts, mining research, and reaching the public in innovative ways. While these new tools--blogs, podcasts, Skype, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter--offer creative outlets, mindless chatter can gobble up precious time. Countless new Web sites provide a dizzying array of science information, misinformation, and commentary that can be hard to sort through. These sites also run the risk of preaching to the converted and subdividing the audience in ways that may narrow the science knowledge base and reinforce uninformed opinion.

In the face of this changing media landscape, journalism and science organizations need to explore better ways to train reporters, scientists, and other communicators around the world in the substance and process of science writing. In doing so, it is crucial that the old-fashioned virtues of good journalism--accurate information, multiple sources, context over controversy, and editorial independence--not be lost in the enthusiasm for communicating content in novel ways.

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